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Voice of the President

Being the voice of the President and speaking for him on a number of issues is truly a sensitive job.

In a radio interview on February 13, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said that the R2 billion worth of aid promised by the President to residents of Surigao City was intended for workers who will lose their jobs when the government’s mining closure orders take effect in the region.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella stated the following day during a Malacañang news conference that the R2-billion aid Duterte mentioned was meant for Surigao earthquake survivors who lost their loved ones or properties.

Still, being the gentleman that he is, Abella never admitted or mentioned in any way when questioned that his fellow spokesperson was wrong.

Meanwhile, speaking in defense of the President a couple of weeks ago, Andanar claimed that Senate reporters were offered $1,000 to cover the press conference of a former cop linking Duterte to the Davao Death Squad (DDS).

To some members of the press, this statement was highly irregular coming from a fellow journalist, former news anchor and radio commentator before his appointment as Cabinet official.

The media condemned Andanar’s claim as insulting, irresponsible and without basis. They challenged him to prove his statement, otherwise issue a public apology but Andanar never did.

Sad to say, Andanar’s controversial statements hit the headlines and put the administration in a bad light.

Andanar and Abella alternated in issuing Palace statements in their previous setup. But now, Malacañang came up with a new directive that only Abella’s office can release Palace statements while Andanar will focus on overseeing PCOO programs and departmental affairs.

Without a doubt, two presidential spokespersons issuing contradicting statements will only create confusion, especially among the intended beneficiaries of the R2-billion aid.

Bear in mind that Cabinet secretaries are extensions of the President. Any miscommunication among them will definitely reflect on the Chief Executive and his management, and may even be deemed as mismanagement by some people.

This may give the wrong impression that an internal problem exists among his appointees that the Chief Executive cannot control.

If the President fails to control the people he himself appointed, how can the people trust him to run the government and the whole country as well?

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)